We get excited at the end of the year when we look at donation reports on our nonprofit client websites (we use GiveWP which offers some great reporting right within the WordPress website dashboard). This year, one of our client sites has had over 200 donations in the last week of the year. This is in line with research that shows that over 30% of annual donations occur in December, and 12% occur in the last THREE DAYS of the year.
Planning and preparing for this charitable season begins almost as soon as the new year begins, with a review of what worked and didn’t work, followed by strategic planning for the next season.
Key steps to prepare for the peak donation season includes:
- Scheduling tasks and ensuring there is enough time built in for planning and development
- Strategic planning and research
- Website testing
Year-End Giving Campaign Planning Timeline
Since almost 2/3 of nonprofits make between 1-3 donor “touches” for their year-end campaign, most start reaching out to appeal for donations in September/October.
Create a timeline to schedule tasks starting as early as June/July. Since direct mail is still the standard for fundraising campaigns, be sure you build in enough time to develop creative materials, print and mail them to reach your audience in time.
According to Mobile Cause, year-end giving strategies are critical to the success of nonprofit donations. This article states that “Donors get involved with nonprofits over the holidays for four primary reasons:
- To be happier by helping others
- To feel good about themselves by making a difference
- To be connected to something positive
- To take advantage of tax deductions
Understanding why your donors respond to your appeals, and how to communicate to them, is a key to successful fundraising. This information helps craft your message to each demographic group. It is likely that your nonprofit has different groups, requiring a different message and strategy for each. Your appeal is your chance to put your nonprofit at the front of your donors’ minds.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box with your goals. Your year-end campaign is a great opportunity to brand the organization, acquire new donors, raise your public profile, or even recruit volunteers. Aim for whatever makes sense for your organization, but remember to keep goals realistic, measurable, and specific.
Planning a multi-platform strategy will help maximize your campaign’s reach. Direct mail, social media, email marketing and website messaging should all be in your plan.
Website Readiness and Testing
Driving donors to your website to make easy, online donations is critical to your end-of-year campaign’s success. In addition to the suggestions for successful nonprofit websites, make sure your website is an extension of your other marketing efforts and not an afterthought. Your website should have a consistent look and feel with your printed materials, as well as your email messages and social media images.
From a technical standpoint, be sure you have tested your website and donation platform to be sure it is working properly for increased year-end giving. Avoid last-minute changes and updates which may disrupt functionality. Make sure the Thank You message that goes automatically to donors is up to date with the current year and other current information. Make sure your website server can handle the anticipated increase in website traffic.
Make some test donations on your site and check the following:
- Does your website have an SSL to provide security and trust with your website visitors?
- Is it easy for website visitors to find your online donation form?
- Is your website mobile friendly and is it easy to make a donation from a phone?
- Does your website load quickly so visitors don’t get frustrated and leave before completing their donation?
- Does your donation form offer recurring donations?
- Does your donation form properly total and display donation amounts?
- Are donations properly processed through your payment processor? Do you offer a fee recovery option to allow donors to cover the processing costs (and does your form accurately compute these fees?)
- Do you get notifications when a donation is made?
- Does the donor receive an email receipt and thank you message after their donation is processed?
Starting off the new year with a plan in mind to prepare for next year’s year-end giving season will help ensure success.
Need help preparing, auditing and refreshing your nonprofit website? We’d love to chat with you about how we can help.